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Though these two National Parks essentially only have a valley between them, they are both amazing and yet remarkably different. No visit to Moab would be complete without seeing both Arches and Canyonlands.
In Arches most of the amazing rock features rise upwards, whereas in Canyonlands, we mostly look down across panoramic views from an elevated plateau.
It is possible to visit both Parks in one very long day, but we recommend taking your time and allowing a separate day for each.
Moab has long been a favourite place for adventure sport enthusiasts like mountain-bikers and rock climbers but simply driving the Arches National Park route as a sightseeing day trip is incredible in its own right.
With an introductory explanation of the complex geological forces required to create features like The Windows, and the slow constant affect weather elements have to change the landscape you’ll appreciate how remarkably unique it is. Hear stories about the characters who were drawn here and the fragile ecosystem that supplies a lifeline to a surprising amount of diversity.
But with over 2,000 arches located throughout the park, and most travellers on a limited schedule, we’ll lead you to not to be missed features like Double Arch and Landscape Arch. More time may allow you to visit Skyline Arch and Devils Garden areas, as well as many more.
Canyonlands offers a vastly different experience even though it is only across the valley from the more famous Arches National Park.
Starting in Moab, we travel to the Island in the Sky District continuing along Grand View Point Road. Enthusiastic photographers should get up early if the want to capture Canyonlands’ most famous image – sunrise through Mesa Arch. If we start later in the day, arrange your time so you are still in the Park for a spectacular sunset.
Along the way we’ll examine perplexing elements at Upheaval Dome and how this has led to two different theories behind Utah’s “belly button”. A view to the Merrimac and Monitor Buttes will have you imagining them as the American Civil War armor plated ships, or ironclads, that they resemble. Gaze down into the depths at Green River Outlook carved by the unrelenting Colorado and Green Rivers. Those fit and properly prepared should hike the Aztec Butte Trail to view ancestral Puebloan structures called granaries.
For those with limited mobility Canyonlands offers many easily accessible scenic viewpoints, and each one adds to understanding how this is an island in the sky.
Start in Moab or join the tour as you approach either Arches or Canyonlands National Park Entrances.
Arches – 1 Full Day suggested
Canyonlands – 1/2 – 1 Day
Of course, it’s much nicer if you have more time, especially for hiking.
Arches – loop 42 miles from Moab
Canyonlands – loop 75 miles from Moab
If you only have one day to visit both Parks, our recommendation is to visit Arches first, and weight your time 2/3rds to Arches. Canyonlands is a terrific place to visit later in the day and especially to enjoy the sunset.
If you have more than one day, then either Park will impress you in any order.
Yes, all the tour commentary in the individual tours is included in the combo, plus there is some bonus audio that connects the 2 Parks. If you plan to visit both, then this is the best value option.
The tour for Canyonlands National Park covers the Island in the Sky portion of the Park, and this is the section that has the most things to see. The Needles part is worth visiting, but the entrance to this small area is located 60 miles south of Moab.